Research by Hubspot reveals that seventy percent of marketers invest in content marketing, with 40% claiming it is a very important part of their strategy.
Content marketing is prevalent in today’s business climate. But does it work? More importantly, what kind of content marketing works, and how do we determine if it works?
Let’s find out.
Beyond vanity metrics: Revenue as the goal of content marketing
Measuring the success of content or an approach to content marketing is a big deal. Research by Smart Insights reveals that 76% of marketers use organic traffic to measure content success.
No doubt, organic traffic is good, but good for what?
Organic traffic is essential to online marketing success, but organic traffic in itself does not produce business results.
What is the ultimate financial aim of a business? Revenue generation. Sales are the driver of business growth. Sales result in cash flow, which drives business operations. Sales lead to profit, which drives retained earnings, and retained earnings drive business growth.
Therefore, for content marketing to truly work, it should be driving business revenue.
The problem with most content marketers today is an obsession with vanity metrics that have nothing, ultimately, to do with business success. Organic traffic, page views, and leads are some examples of vanity metrics.
Not that these metrics are not useful to measure, but they should not be the measurement of content success. Yes, your traffic has increased by 100%. Does it translate to more revenue? Yes, you have 2X your leads, but does it result in more revenue?
Leads vs. Customers
While everything can be measured, not everything that is measured, counts.
Take lead generation as an example.
Most financial advisors, like other marketers, focus much attention on lead generation. There are information-qualified leads (IQLs), market-qualified leads (MQLs), and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).
IQLs are at the top of the marketing funnel (TOFU), MQLs are middle of the funnel (MOFU) leads, and SQLs are bottom of the funnel (BOFU) leads.
Marketers do many work qualifying and nurturing leads as they move them from one stage of the funnel to another.
But in the end, what counts is whether your customers are increasing. All the number-crunching about IQLs, MQLs, and SQLs may improve your marketing, but they should not be considered ultimate.
More leads are not a business result until it translates to more customers. Yes, celebrate the little wins; but the problem is whether more leads are necessarily a win.
Having one more customer is a little win (depending on your industry); having fifty more is a big win. But having more leads is not a win, only a step towards the win, the final run before the jump.
All of these to point out that revenue generation is the win, the goal, the real metric.
Storytelling as a content strategy
Therefore, when designing a content strategy, the marketer should focus on a strategy that maximizes revenue generation.
What if there is a strategy that leads from content to customers? What if this content strategy bypasses much of the fascination with funnels and leads?
In a previous article, we considered how financial advisors could gain more client with storytelling.
I propose that storytelling as a content strategy can help financial advisors gain direct customers from their leads.
To recap, storytelling as a content strategy is a brand-led and customer-centered approach to content marketing where your customer is the hero and your product the solution that helps him overcome obstacles to achieving his goals.
In every story, there are characters; there is a conflict and a resolution.
Your customer is the protagonist who has a dream or goal. Some antagonists are preventing him from achieving his goal. There is a conflict, and your product or service provides the resolution that helps the protagonist overcomes the antagonists and achieves his goal.
The Hero Journey is another way to illustrate this approach to content marketing. In a Hero’s Journey, there is a departure act, initiation act, and return act.
In the departure act, your customer leaves the ordinary world in pursuit of an important goal. The initiation act is where your customer enters the unknown world and faces trials and challenges on the journey to achieving his goal.
In the return act, your product or service has helped the customer overcome the trials, and now he returns as a hero.
An example of storytelling as a content strategy
Let’s consider an example of how this works.
Suppose your target audience are people who are above forty without retirement savings or a retirement plan.
Say your buyer persona is Kate, a 45-year old clerk at a law firm.
In that case, Kate is your protagonist or potential hero. What is Kate’s goal? To retire with enough money so she can live the life of her dreams in retirement.
What are the challenges? Kate lives paycheck to paycheck. She burns her fingers by choosing individual stocks that fail. She is in so much debt.
So here is our protagonist with three strong antagonists. Here is our hero faced with three key trials on her journey to stardom. The stardom here, the goal that is important to our hero, is enjoying life in retirement.
Your product (let’s call it Not Too Old To Retire Well) is what brings resolution; it’s the equipment you’re hero needs to slay the dragons so she can come back victorious and happy.
In your article or video, you must show you understand your potential customer’s goal and the challenges on her way. Most importantly, your goal is to show how your product can bring resolution and lead the customer to a happy ending – a hero’s welcome.
Show not tell
Another important aspect of this content strategy is to show, not tell.
Instead of telling your protagonist/hero, how your product or service solves the challenges on her way to stardom, show it.
You can show it by:
- Referencing the experience of someone like her who has used the product or service and attained stardom.
- Showing how your product or service works to solve that problem
If Jamie had used the same Not Too Old To Retire Well program, use his story to show not tell (provided Kate and Jamie are part of the same market segment).
In lieu of that, you can show how that program solves the three challenges on Kate’s way to stardom. With practical examples and illustrations, show how it can help her stop living paycheck to paycheck, burning her fingers in stock-picking, and accumulating debt.
Then show them what the desired future looks like. Use the power of words to show them the glory of that future where the challenges are gone, and they have arrived in stardom.
The road from visitor to customer
When Kate reads this article, she is screaming: give me this program. She now understands the challenges on her way to glory. She is also seeing the solution that will help her overcome the challenges.
Kate is ready to buy. She doesn’t need a drawn-out process of lead qualifying and nurturing. She doesn’t just want to subscribe to a mailing list; she wants this product.
Everyone loves a good hero story, especially when they are the heroes.
This approach to content marketing works at every stage of marketing – awareness, consideration, and decision. Whether you are writing authority, attraction, affinity, or action content, employ storytelling, and turn your readers to consumers.
Revenue is the primary driver of any business. Content marketing should focus on increasing revenue. Leads, funnels, organic traffic, et al. can help evaluate your content marketing, but they should not be the focus.
Traffic and leads are great but are they resulting in greater revenue?
By incorporating storytelling as a content strategy, content marketers can gain customers directly from their content instead of focusing on funnels and leads.
This brand-led, customer-centered approach to content marketing enables potential customers to see your product as the immediate solution to their problems – the bulldozer that clears the debris on the path to stardom.
Does this approach to content marketing work?
Next week, we’ll consider some companies using storytelling as a content strategy and the results they are generating for their business.